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Still Trying to be a Better Parent

August 16, 2010

Trying to catch up, still.  I guess that may say something about me, and why I need to try so hard to be Better at everything.

Challenge No. 13The Dreaded “in a minute …”

Heh.  The title of my blog?  “In a minute …”  Why did I choose that title?  Because:

(a) I say that to my kids all the time;

(b) My kids say that to me all the time; and

(c) I feel like in a minute, they’ll be out of the house.  Lemon’s already entering high school.  Mouse is over 5 feet tall and is going into 7th grade.  She’s ridiculously independent and capable.

Anyway, like Kristen says, giving the kids some amorphous “in a minute …” doesn’t work.  It’s just a way to put them off, and they will pick up on that.  I find it’s also important to let them know that.  Especially since if they had their way when asked to do something (get your shoes out of the living room; wipe down the bathroom sink, your friends are coming over; clean your bedroom; come to dinner; turn off your light and go to sleep; etc.)

As a parent, not only do I try to be concrete about when I will do something with or for my kids, but I insist on the same from them.

I am trying to think, though, of an instance where I needed do something right now for my 12 and 14 yos.  I cannot think of a time.  The only times they tend to need me NOW, are times that involve an injury or some other instant issue (trying to get something off a shelf, and it’s threatening to topple on their heads … stuck on the toilet without toilet paper … etc).  Most things are now “when will I get my allowance?”  “When can we go shopping for new bras?”  “Will you help me with my project this weekend?”  “Can you help me study for my test on Friday?” )  Same concept, longer focus.

Challenge No. 14 Catch Them Being Good

I clearly remember a day this past winter when Lemon had a friend over.  This particular friend has considerable sibling issues.  The sibling has special needs, and takes up a lot of the parents’ time and energy.  The result is that Lemon’s friend is resentful, and expresses that by being mean TO and ABOUT the sibling.  I do not fault the friend, necessarily.  The friend has a lot of fall out from the situation, and is doing the best that can be done by an adolescent.

On this day, Lemon and her friend were sitting at our dining room table doing who-knows-what when the friend started in on a tirade about the sibling.  Lemon started talking to her friend in a very low voice.  I went into the kitchen – closer to the dining room – to try and get a sense of what was going on.  I overheard Lemon having a serious chat with her friend about the sibling, and how the situation is not the sibling’s fault, and that while Friend may not be happy about the situation, and may not love the parents’ reactions, she (Lemon) thought the Friend should have some compassion toward the sibling.

I was very impressed with my daughter.  I knew that – knowing her friend and the history between them – Lemon took a huge risk by standing up and saying the things she said.  It was brave.  There would be potential fall out.  I was also pleased that the empathy that I had seen in Lemon from a very young age was not going away, even in the throes of late middle-school hell, and ridiculous peer pressure from not only the peer group at large, but also the closest of friends.

What did I say to her about it?

Nothing.  At least not for months.  I knew what her response would be – she would roll her eyes at me.  I am her mom.  That conversation was between her and her friend.  I also knew the history between Lemon and I about this friend (it’s spelled like this:  d-i-s-a-p-p-r-o-v-a-l), and that it was a particular topic that would not be met with open arms.

Once the issues surrounding that friendship calmed down, I did mention it to Lemon.  And I told her I was proud of her, and that I thought it was a brave and kind thing.  Her response?  “Well, duh, Mom.  Someone needs to say something.  Besides, we talk about it all the time.”

In general, I think our parent/child relationship has evolved with them  in such a way that I can’t really “catch them being good” (especially in the small stuff) without seeming like I’m being condescending.  There are opportunities, of course.  Last week, Mouse collected her laundry and got it going in the machines without being told for the first time ever.  (Although, to be fair, this is the first year that she’s doing her own laundry …)  Both Writer Dude and I remarked on it, and told her we appreciated her taking the initiative.  There are times that it is obvious that Lemon is working very hard in the self control department to avoid having a temper flare up, and to find a way to have a conversation rather than an argument.  I comment on that every time I notice it.

I also always tell them “I loved spending time with you.”  And, “You’re a fun person.”  I guess as they get older, I feel more of “being good” is about the people they are.  Which I guess is what growing up is all about.  Hopefully the small things get ironed out while they’re small, and they grow up to be kind, empathetic, responsible and useful members of society.  Of course, at 12 and 14, they’re not there yet, but I like to think they’re on their way.

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